The Story of Missing Kings Canyon Backcountry Ranger Randy Morgenson

I just finished Eric Blehm’s book, The Last Season, a recounting of the fate of Randy Morgenson, the legendary ranger who disappeared in the mid-1990’s in Kings Canyon National Park. He grew up in Yosemite, where he’s father served as his role model: photographer, hiker, bird watcher, docent, lover of all wild things. Ansel Adams even gave him a camera and Wallace Stegner reviewed and helped him with his nature writing.

Young Randy grew up, got married and spent the summers of his adult life patrolling the wilderness and helping backpackers, cleaning up trash, destroying fire rings, rescue injured and lost hikers.

The book has some surprises. Well written, compelling. Troubled by an affair gone wrong and a pending divorce as he headed into the backcountry for that “last” summer, you can imagine all kinds things happening. Ultimately, the author reveals the secrets.

I won’t say much more, except to recommend highly that you read the book. You don’t know whether to love this guy and his passion to protect the wilderness or think of him as a little crazed in the sense that he felt like it was his wilderness and no one else should be allowed. But by all accounts, he was a really good man, who treated just about everyone well.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Pacific Crest Trail to Mt. Eddy – Don’t Follow The Leader

Mt. Eddy from Mt. ShastaLast week I returned from a short, lightweight backpack to Mt. Eddy (9,025 feet), a great viewing spot for Mt. Shasta.

A mile north of the City of Weed, California, on I-5, you take Edgewood Drive, follow it to Stewart Springs Road and you end up at Parks Creek Trailhead (13 mile drive on paved roads).

When we reached the trailhead, two other groups were in the parking area. Each group headed out on a trail headed up hill without a second thought. Ten minutes later, we followed them. A half mile later, we realized that we weren’t on the trail afterall. We walked back down to the trailhead, looked around and off to the right and found a nice flat trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the trail we had wanted.

Lesson: don’t just follow groups ahead of you, driven by the adrenaline of beginning a new backpack and desire to get into the wilderness. Take a deep breath, check out your map. Avoid making rookie mistakes like ours.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backpacking Kitchen: An Ultra Light Pot for Three

One of my readers said he was getting into backpacking with his family — there are three of them total — and wanted to know the best choice of a lightweight cooking pot. I’m sure you’ll get lots of opinions on this. But I purchased a pot set four years ago that works great for three guys, including myself and trail companions Duke and Wild Bill.

We cook pasta and add either smoked tuna, smoked salmon or pesto, and find we’ve got plenty. Although pasta recipes say to fill a huge four or five quart pot with water for a half pound of pasta, trust me when I say — based on several years of experience — that you can cook 3/4 of a pound of pasta in less than two liters of water just fine.

The pot and lit weight seven ounces. The pot lifter adds another ounce. You can leave the bag at home and save an ounce.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.